I teach high school kids with language-based learning disabilities and I need a film that will preview the plot, setting and characters so they can better visualize it when they read the story.
I agree that the Assante version is very well done. In fact, I just showed a bit of it this week to my students and they seemed interested and impressed. The fact that the series could be longer than a two-hour movie contributed to its success.
I, too, have used the Armand Assante mini-series version of The Odyssey. My students--honors and struggling--always love the series. It is structured logically; so you can easily break it into vignettes (as others have suggested). For pre-reading activities, I would first see how much your students know about Greek mythology. In the past, I have used a twenty-minute Jim Henson-produced video of Perseus and Medusa. Students enjoy it because Homer and his dog tell the story, and the puppet special effects are quite entertaining. This is a quick way to introduce students to classical elements of Greek heroes and mythology.
I agree with others in recommending Assante, but to follow up the suggestion made in #5, to extend the comparison, you might want to think of how you can use Cold Mountain, either the book or the film, that is based very closedly on this epic text. It is very interesting to examine how such an ancient story still holds our attention today, and is the basis of so many other texts.
I think you've got an overwhelming vote for Assante. I've included a link that puts you in touch with other film adaptations for Homer's epics. I've seen many of them, and even though they are older, the timeless quality of the stories still enthralls students. Good Luck!
Although it does not closely follow the story, O' Brother, Where Art Thou will capture your students' attention. The story follows The Odyssey, but loosely. It's based in the Depression-era south. It's a wonderful film, and I guarantee your kids will love it. Of course, it's just as fun or more fun AFTER you read the book!
I absolutely second the previous post's suggestion to use the 1997 TV mini-series of The Odyssey. I have taught The Odyssey (or at least portions of it) on many occasions and used the TV adaptation each time with great results. The kids LOVED the movie, and Armand Assante makes a great Odysseus. There are some excellent special effects, and the monsters are visually stunning. Naturally, there are some scenes missing and some condensed story-telling as well, but this is certainly one of the best (if not the best) versions of the story available. The rest of the cast--including Greta Scacchi (Penelope), Isabella Rossellini (Athena), Bernadette Peters (Circe), Irene Papas (Anticlea), Vanessa Williams (Calypso), Michael J. Pollard (Aeolus) and Eric Roberts (Eurymachus)--is also superb. The Odyssey won Emmys for Best Director and Best Special Visual Effects and was nominated for several others (including Best Miniseries). It certainly helps the students to better visualize the story, and I'm sure you will be able to create some lessons using the comparisons of the two.
I think if you're dealing with students who have learnign disabilities, you should stick to the Armand Assante TV mini-series. Also, I agree with the first comment to show it in sections. When I teach "The Odyssey", I always show the section that coincides with the Book of the epic poem that I had just taught. For example, after reading and discussing Book 9 of the epic poem, I would then show the part of the movie that had the Cyclops in it. It has always worked well for me. Visually, it's a good way to go.
Check out the 1997 TV mini-series starring Armand Assante. You might want to show just sections at a time. Perhaps show a brief clip, talk about what's going on in that part of the epic in general, and then read and discuss the section from Homer with your students.